Dutch Kills

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12th Street near 27th Avenue, Astoria Village

Queens has been a county since 1683. Just as the USA originally had 13 states, the state of New York has 12 original counties: Albany, Cornwall, Dukes, Dutchess, Kings, New York (Manhattan), Orange, Queens, Richmond, Suffolk, Ulster and Westchester.

Nassau County, you say? It’s a Johnny come lately. In 1898, when four counties voted to become part of New York City, becoming Greater New York, half the county of Queens — the eastern towns of North Hempstead, Hempstead and Oyster Bay — chose to become independent, and in 1899 they created a county of their own, Nassau.

Had these towns not separated from Queens, our present task — examining the origins of the names of the borough’s neighborhoods — would call for entries on Lynbrook, Long Beach, Port Washington, Oyster Bay, Massapequa… and I’d be writing till Christmas. As is, Queens is large enough.

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Oil on Newtown Creek is an old story, but when there are fresh rainbow colors like you see in the shot of Dutch Kills above, there’s nothing historic about it. That’s newly released material, and it’s been a big problem all summer.

First, for those of you unfamiliar with the place, Dutch Kills is Long Island City’s own tributary of Newtown Creek. Its junction with the main body of the Creek is found roughly .8 of a mile from the East River, and it terminates at 47th Avenue – just a block or so away from the Citigroup building on Jackson Avenue at Thomson.

Throughout the summer of 2014, reports of fresh oil sheens have been reported along Newtown Creek. My colleague in the Newtown Creek Alliance, Greenpoint’s Will Elkins, has documented this event, and interacted with NYS Department of Environmental Conservation investigators to determine the point source from which this material is emanating.

Yesterday, the DEC found that point source on Dutch Kills, and probably found the polluter who has been illegally dumping literally thousands of gallons of oil directly into the water all summer.

More after the jump…

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29th Street in the Dutch Kills section, nearby Queens Plaza, used to be known as Academy Street “back in the day.” In this case, that day was way before the consolidation of the City of Greater New York in 1898. The “day” was just a few years after the village of Dutch Kills had broken away from the municipality of Newtown, joining with several other East River communities to form Long Island City in 1870.

The little church you’ll not notice – if you were to blink – at 40-11 29th Street – dates back to 1875.

Built as the First Reformed Church of Long Island City, it opened on the 12th of April, and its first pastor was named William Perry. Funds and property for the building came largely from the Payntar family (of ancient lineage), and a fellow named John Van Neste. There’s a reason that the place is called “Dutch Kills.”

More after the jump…

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I was slowly and steadily making my way down 29th Street in Long Island City recently from 38th Avenue to Queens Plaza. As with a previous post on 37th Street, I was fascinated by Astoria’s varied and eclectic housing stock. Nowhere else in the borough, and certainly not west of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, have buildings of every era and every architectural design been thrown together as if in a blender and tossed as if at random onto a streetscape, and nowhere else is hand-drawn signage of the early 20th century counterbalanced against ultramodern Babylonian towers thrown against the sky. 29th Street has all of these and more.

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To start with, this giant was built during the winter, in 1914.

We’re used to this sort of thing these days, seeing enormous structural works of reinforced concrete being constructed willy nilly all over the place during all sorts of weather, but in 1914 – this building represented a revolutionary step forward in the construction business.

The Turner Company erected this 456-foot-long, five-story, 210,000-square-foot gargantua in Dutch Kills for the New York Consolidated Card Company, using a clever system of steam coils and heaters to keep ice from forming in the mixers and lines as they pumped the concrete into its forms. The technique they developed became the defacto standard methodology for winter construction. The structure was designed by the architecture and engineering firm of Ballinger & Perrot, of Philadelphia.

More after the jump…

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On Friday, the 11th of July, I found myself at the very edge of Queens in a very special place. At the end of Vernon Boulevard in LIC, where the old Vernon Avenue Bridge and the Newtown Creek Towing Company were found, is a facility which is engaged in the hands-on work of the Superfund process. The Anchor QEA company operates out of here, carrying out the collection of samples and scientific tests which will determine the exact nature of what’s wrong with Newtown Creek. These samples and tests are overseen and directed by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, and is an effort conducted by the so-called “Potentially Responsible Parties” (PRPs).

These “Potentially Responsible Parties” have organized themselves together as the Newtown Creek Group, and they invited a small group of community members and representatives to their LIC facility to describe what they actually do at the Vernon street end and discuss the future of Newtown Creek.

More after the jump…

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Shoko Kazama has always been fascinated by Chinese characters and poetry. From childhood, the Yokohama native studied calligraphy and passionately orchestrated the brushes, Japanese paper, and Chinese ink. After studying independently and with various mentors for decades, she is now the distinguished official calligrapher of Kencho-ji, a Zen sect with its high temple in Kamakura, Japan. This Friday, Kazama opens her first ever exhibition in New York City, Bokusai, at Resobox, an LIC gallery/cafe that promotes art and cuisine from the Land of the Rising Sun. The show’s theme is Otogizoshi or stories from the Muromachi period (13th century) that have been passed down verbally among children for generations. Kazama mixes black ink with white paper because her art explores expressing the invisible through the visible.

A quote from Kazama, another image, and more exhibition information are on the jump page.

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The nickname I’ve assigned to the section of Northern Boulevard, which begins at the Jackson Avenue/31st Street intersection and rolls out in an easterly direction towards Woodside and Jackson Heights, is “The Carridor.” References to the area as “Detroit East” in the historic literature is the reason why. This was one of the birthplaces of the American Automotive industry, right here in Long Island City. A general description of this forgotten industrial zone was offered back in February of this year, in this Q’stoner post.

Today, we’re zeroing in on a particular manufacturer, the Pierce Arrow factory and service center building, which still stands on 38th Avenue between 34th and 35th Streets.

More after the jump.

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I say this every time that the Mister rings his bells: Mrs. Softee is lonely during the torrid nights of a New York summer, wondering for whom her man plays his song. Mister Softee is no damn good, and she’s sure of it.

Pictured above is a proper “Mister Softee” truck, found on its rounds in Astoria one night, doing exactly what he told the Mrs. that he’d be up to. The mister’s wearing his proper “trade dress” and nothing is as it shouldn’t be (except that I was walking the dog and didn’t have a penny on me, so I couldn’t buy a vanilla cone with sprinkles. Frankly, the dog was more upset than me about this, but there you go.)

Of late, however, something strange has been going on in Queens – someone has been impersonating the Mister.

More after the jump

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Our very own Mitch Waxman (also author of the blog Newtown Pentacle) is hosting a tour throughout Dutch Kills with Atlas Obscura NYC. It sounds like it’s going to be a good one: “During this three hour tour, we will cover three miles of Brooklyn and Queens to see where the industrial revolution actually happened. Bring your camera, as the tour will be revealing an incredible landscape along this section of the troubled Newtown Creek Watershed.” The tour takes place from 11 am to 2pm on Saturday, April 5th and tickets cost $20. You can purchase them right here.